Contributor: Nina Amelie Lazaro
The perfect vacation destination is often described as a lush paradise with clear waters and white sand beaches. Well look no further than Tuvalu! At a glance, this island is the ideal utopia for any tropical-loving individual. Paradoxically however, it remains the least visited country in the world, threatened by climate change and at risk of disappearing completely.
Welcome to Tuvalu!
As a secret Polynesian paradise tucked away in the South Pacific, Tuvalu is a small country made up of three thin islands and a total of 25 square km. The current population of Tuvalu is only a little over 12 000, which accounts for less than half of the total student population here at Western University. As a low-developed country, residents of Tuvalu rely mostly on money sent by family members working abroad, or local fares such as agricultural activities and fishing. But with its pleasant tropical climate and abundance of clear blue beaches, why is Tuvalu so unheard of and why isn’t their tourism industry blossoming like other tropical destinations?
According to a report by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Tuvalu was named the least visited country in the world with only about 2000 tourists within all of 2016. To put this into perspective, France averages about 89 million tourists per year as the most visited country in the world. Although Tuvalu houses magnificent lagoons, white-sand beaches, and an abundance of Polynesian culture, it is one of the smallest and most remote countries in the world and remains relatively unknown to the greater population. In fact, airlines arrive at Tuvalu’s only airport about three times a week, connecting from Kiribati or Fiji. But there is a more pressing issue that has contributed to our lack of knowledge of Tuvalu, one that can erase this beautiful country from our world forever.
Sinking into the Ocean
We have all felt the effects of climate change but for the residents of Tuvalu, climate change threatens the very land they live on. Low-lying Tuvalu sits no more than 15 feet above sea level, making it a susceptible victim to its neighboring seas. Due to sea level rise and coastal erosion, Tuvalu is at risk of being swallowed whole. These devastating events not only threaten the tourism industry of Tuvalu but the wellbeing of their citizens. Tuvalu’s prime minister has expressed that evacuating the island is the ultimate last resort and when this happens, their residents will officially become the world's first climate change refugees. Unfortunately for Tuvalu, almost all scientists agree that the future of Tuvalu is underwater. What’s more devastating is that these issues are not a result of the actions of Tuvalu’s own residents, rather a consequence of global behaviours and practices such as burning fossil fuels and contributing to global warming. Sadly, most residents have now come to terms with the impending decimation of their beloved country. While they continue to fight against climate change and advocate for the sinking of their home, they know that climate change is too far gone and all they can do now is hope that they can stay afloat for another day.
Tuvalu is a beautiful country that deserves more recognition than it gets. As our global actions continue to take a toll on the very existence of Tuvalu, we must be mindful of our everyday actions and how this may be contributing to the worsening situation in Tuvalu and others like it.